Head Injuries and Military Divorce: What You Need to Know

By September 26, 2016Divorce and Military

By Staff Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Human brain illustrated with millions of small nerves - Conceptual 3d render

TBIs make for challenges in a divorce.

The lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq tested the U.S. military in dynamic ways and led to unforeseen consequences both for our servicemen and servicewomen as well as for their families.

One of the most tragic, underreported challenges concerns traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – specifically, how TBIs have impacted the mental health of hundreds of thousands of members of the Armed Forces.

Military couples already face obstacles that civilian couples never need to confront: long, hard to predict deployments; the real possibility of injury or death on the job; and mentally and physically demanding work that often takes priority over family needs.

When those in combat suffer psychological problems due to injury or exposure on the battlefield, family dynamics can be thrown off. TBIs permanently alter the brain’s neurochemistry, leading to changes in behavior and personality that can be hard to predict and hard for loved ones to recognize and manage.

In addition, the research in this area is complex and ongoing. Scientists are only beginning to grapple with the relationship between head injuries and personality changes. What should or can be done to save relationships impacted by TBI remains an open scientific question.

Head Injuries in the Military – Some Facts

Traumatic brain injury can result from any injury to the head and lead to diverse medical issues, such as:

  • Attention and focus problems
  • Loss of empathy and affect
  • Loss of ability to manage daily tasks
  • Emotional control problems
  • Severe mood swings
  • Violent tendencies
  • Hallucinations and flashbacks

According to a 2013 analysis published by the Congressional Research Service, Traumatic Brain Injury Among Veterans: “Traumatic brain injury has become known as a “signature wound” of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), because the incidence of TBI is higher in these conflicts than it has been in previous conflicts. From FY2002 through FY2011, 1.4 million OEF/OIF veterans (including members of the Reserve and National Guard) left active duty and became eligible for VA health care.”

Why have the OEF and OIF conflicts generated so many TBI cases? Congressional researchers hypothesize three causes:

  1. These conflicts saw the use of many blast devices, like improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rocket-propelled grenades.
  1. Advances in armor, field medicine, and evacuation techniques saved many people who would have been lost in previous conflicts.
  1. Health care professionals have better tools to diagnose TBI than they did in previous conflicts.

It’s Not Your Fault

TBIs often touch off or worsen conflicts in intimate relationships and thus lead to divorce. The statistics are sad. Research shows that roughly 15% of marriages end in divorce after a TBI afflicts one spouse. In general, the longer a couple has been together, the more likely the couple is to stay together in spite of the obstacles created by the brain injury.  TBIs resulting from military service are frequently compounded by the symptoms of PTSD which can intensify the impacts of the TBI.

Our Colorado military divorce attorneys understand how to approach cases with sensitivity. Call our law firm today for a free case evaluation at 719.227.7779 to discuss your options.